Nidhi (left) and Sidhi with their parents’ photograph at their Bariatu residence in Ranchi on Friday. (Prashant Mitra)
Tears have dried up for this family, but not hopes.
Even two months after the Uttarakhand tragedy, septuagenarian Gulab Nayak keeps staring at the gate of his 45-year-old son Madan’s Bariatu house, expecting him and daughter-in-law Prabha Devi (40) — who had gone for a pilgrimage to Kedarnath in June but never came back — to turn up any moment.
So do Madan’s four children, who are now being looked after by their aunt Kaushalya (Madan’s sister-in-law), whose husband died 15 years ago. In fact, Kaushalya had sent her son twice to Uttarakhand to look for Madan, a full-time JMM worker, and Prabha, but each time he returned empty-handed.
“I have stopped crying now because no tears are left in me,” said Gulab, a peasant from Nayagaon village in Barkagaon.
“I live at Nayagaon with my elder son’s widow Kaushalya and her two children. Madan is my younger son, who set up home in Bariatu. After hearing that he and his wife are missing in Uttarakhand, we locked up our Nayagaon house and came to live here in Bariatu. We are waiting for them to come back,” said the 75-year-old.
While Gulab is shattered, the thought of bringing up the children on her own worries Kaushalya — now the sole guardian of the Nayak family after her father-in-law — to no end.
“My son Subodh, a para-teacher in Barkagaon, had twice visited Kedarnath, Rudraprayag, Jangal Chatti et al, looking for his uncle and aunt. He came back two days ago, but without any news. I am now worried how will I look after the family alone,” said Kaushalya.
No one has come forward to help them even two months after the disaster and Kaushalya, who does not have any permanent source of income and depends on farming back at Barkagaon, does not know how to make ends meet.
Madan and Prabha had left Ranchi for Kedarnath, along with four more couples and two men, on June 7. They last spoke to their family on June 15, just a day before floods and landslide struck Uttarakhand. They had said they were walking up to Kedarnath. From June 16, the family has been trying to contact them on cellphone, but in vain.
“I cannot think that my father and mother are no more. I believe they will come back someday,” said Madan’s 11-year-old elder daughter Nidhi. Her younger sister Sidhi (9) sat beside her, clutching a photograph of their parents.
The two girls and their 12-year-old brother Vivek study at Seventh Day Adventist School in Bariatu. Another brother, Naveen (13), is a student of Central Academy.
Even the families of the other missing pilgrims, who were with the Nayak couple, have not given up hope. “I went to Uttarakhand twice and searched for my parents at relief camps, hospitals, bus stands and the like, but found no trace of them,” said Krishna Kumar Singh, son of Baidyanath Singh and Radhika Devi.
But Krishna refuses to accept that his parents might have met a tragic end and instead hopes to be lucky like Prakash Kumar.
Prakash, a professor of Marwari College, along with his mother and two friends, managed to come back safe from the calamity zone after several days of struggle.